Eliza Brewer can’t really remember a time before The Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens. Eliza was seven years old when the first Steeplechase occurred and has fond memories of being a part of the pony races as a child. Today, she watches her young cousins, and her friends’ children race the ponies and she can’t help but feel nostalgic. The Steeplechase is certainly a family affair for Eliza, who is serving as this year’s Race Director. Her cousin, young Mason Lampton, has taken the torch from his father as Race Chairman and Eliza is thrilled to be working with her cousin on an event that is so intertwined with their childhood. “It’s one of my favorite weekends of the whole year. In all the phases of my life, the Steeplechase has been there, as a kid playing in the Infield, to a college student in the Terrace Boxes, to an adult enjoying the day with my parents at a Guarantor Table, I can’t remember not going to the Steeplechase.”
A reality conceptualized by her uncle, Mason Lampton, the focus of the Steeplechase is going back to its roots this year in a new and improved way. “For an event to last 32 years, it has to be pretty special,” says Brewer, “but we realize we have to keep it fresh and new in order to attract a more diverse patron if we want to see the event continue for another 30 years.” Always the first Saturday in November, the Steeplechase is more than just a day at the horse races. The Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens was created and has existed to raise money and awareness for the Arts in the Columbus region. The Columbus Symphony Orchestra, The Springer Opera House, the Columbus Museum, Historic Columbus, The RiverCenter for Performing Arts, and the Ida Cason Callaway Foundation all benefit from the funds raised by Steeplechase, as well as the School of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn University. “I heard our school superintendent say recently that he supported the Arts because the Arts save lives because it gives kids an outlet”, explained Brewer. “I am so proud to be a part of a legacy that is invested in the Arts Community in our city to the extent the Steeplechase has. The Steeplechase has given over $3.8 million dollars to the Arts in the last 32 years.”
The Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens offers something unique, not just to our area, but in general. “I have been to Steeplechases in other parts of Georgia, in Virginia, around D.C., nothing compares to what we have here,” exclaims Eliza. Hidden away in Callaway Gardens in the heart of Harris County, Georgia, the Steeplechase offers breathtaking views. And while the amenities of the Steeplechase are vast, it’s a day spent out of doors in the peak of a changing season, in an environment that offers a feeling of security that takes you back to a time gone by. This year, those who choose to spend the day in the TSYS Infield will have the choice of at least a dozen Food Truck vendors from Atlanta, eliminating the need to pack a meal for the day. “We are talking about fresh ingredients, a plethora of flavors, and everything prepared right when you order it. That is totally new for the Infield.” says Brewer. In addition, the Infield will continue to offer a place for kids of all ages to enjoy themselves, the Jack Russell Terrier Races, gorgeous views of the horse races, and live music. New and improved this year, Steeplechase will also offer a spot just for the college aged crowd. “We are working hard this year to offer something just for the college crowd, coming home for the weekend to enjoy Steeplechase. We want folks to come home and bring their friends. My college years at Steeplechase were a lot of fun!” laughs Brewer. No matter your age, no matter your price range, this year’s Race Director wants to make sure you know that there is something for everyone. “This is truly an incredible event and it is in our backyard. We’re offering exclusive caterers in different price ranges from EPIC, to 11th and Bay, to Chicken Salad Chick, where you can pre-order your food and pick it up when you get to the race or have someone take it to your Terrace Box, your Tent, or your Reserved Rail. We are working alongside Callaway Gardens to offer great weekend and overnight packages, as well. “This is the perfect staycation,” states Brewer, who remembers spending the weekend with siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles at Callaway Gardens the weekend of Steeplechase. “Steeplechase weekend can be whatever you need it to be, whether it is a day away from the norm or a whole weekend in gorgeous Pine Mountain.” For more information, you can visit the Steeplechase website (www.steeplechaseatcallaway.org).
*This article was first published in her Magazine-a publication of the Ledger-Enquirer and can also be found at www.thisgeorgialife.com.